Kris Kobach Shits Bed Again On Kansas Vote Trial's Fourth Day. Really, Just All The Shit
The cross flag lapel pin is a nice touch.
The trial in the ACLU's lawsuit against Kansas's stupid voter-suppression law went into its fourth day Monday, with members of Secretary of State Kris Kobach's legal team not exactly looking like a crack team of professionals. Or even especially competent. Or even minimally competent, actually.
Kobach is defending the state's 2013 voter registration law, which requires people to provide documentation of citizenship to register to vote. He insists the law is necessary to protect against non-citizens voting, although as we noted last week, since 2000, there appear to have been only 43 non-citizens who were improperly registered to vote, resulting in a grand total of 11 votes in all that time. The ACLU contends that tens of thousands of eligible citizens have been prevented from registering to vote by the law; as ACLU lawyer Dale Ho said in his opening statement last week, "Enforcing this law is like taking a bazooka to a fly. The collateral damage is thousands."
[wonkbar] [wonkbar]As we pointed out last time, Kris Kobach is actually representing Kansas himself, since the case is so very important, and also because he's running for governor this year. Problem is, Kobach and his team of experts don't seem to be very good at law talking stuff. US District Court Judge Julie Robinson has had to explain to Kobach and other lawyers on his team how to do pretty basic stuff when it comes to introducing evidence, and she's had to block them from randomly tossing in new evidence that the plaintiffs' attorneys haven't been able to examine.
The idiocy continued Monday, with one of the attorneys on Kobach's team, Sue Becker, just plain fibbing about evidence from Pro Publica reporter Jessica Huseman. This needs a bit of setup: Friday, Kobach had called as an expert witness Hans von Spakovsky, a leading proponent of restricting voting. During cross examination, the ACLU demonstrated von Spakovsky regularly distorts statistics to exaggerate the scope of "voter fraud." The ACLU also introduced an email von Spakovsky had written about who should be on Kobach's now-disbanded presidential voter fraud commission, arguing that allowing any Democrats or "mainstream Republicans" would doom the commission to "abject failure" (small problem: by law, such commissions are required to be bipartisan ). While von Spakovsky's employers, the Heritage Foundation, confirmed he'd written the email, the ACLU's Ho produced a transcript of Huseman interviewing von Spakovsky, who at the time denied having written the email. Which is kind of a big dodgy deal.
So now it's time for the lying: Becker tried to argue Monday that Huseman's interview of von Spakovsky shouldn't be admissible because it was recorded "secretly," which just wasn't true; Judge Robinson allowed it to be used as evidence, since she said it sure sounded like Huseman was holding her recorder near von Spakovsky and asking him reporterly questions. Huseman, as it turns out, was right there in the courtroom, although she wasn't called as a witness; she tweeted about Becker's untruths:
As CNN's Andrew Kaczynski observed, "Don’t lie about reporters, also if [you] do make sure they’re not sitting right behind you."
And that was just the beginning of the day's brilliant legal work. Judge Robinson had to remind Kobach yet again that he couldn't introduce evidence he hadn't provided prior to the trial:
Robinson, in apparent consternation, asked Kobach to “please” read evidence and deposition rules that had now come up “ad nauseum.”
“You can't sit down with your expert on the eve of trial and come up with new numbers,” she chided him.
Kobach brought out another expert witness, this time Steven Camerota of the far-right Center for Immigration Studies, who claimed there was no evidence that younger voters' participation in elections was suppressed by the Kansas law, a key contention by the ACLU's witnesses. The ACLU challenged his methodology and credentials, getting him to acknowledge he'd never published any peer-reviewed work on voting (though he has done peer-reviewed studies on Census data), and pressing him on the Center for Immigration Studies' and Camerota's own political leanings. ACLU lawyers noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center has listed CIS as a hate group for its anti-immigrant bias, and asked Camerota about one of his personal blog posts that claimed immigrants are more prone to crime than US citizens. He replied, "That’s what the data show," although really, no, the data show nothing of the sort.
Camerota also kept trying to talk over ACLU lawyer Angela Liu when she asked him yes or no questions, repeatedly butting in to explain his answers, while Liu continued to speak to him. The cross-talk got so heated that Judge Robinson told them both to knock it off for the sake of the court reporter:
She can only take down one voice at a time or we’re going to kill her [...] And then I’m going to kill everyone else.
Yr Wonkette is a fan of Judge Julie Robinson.
Robinson later had to give a talking-to to another Kobach expert, Old Dominion University researcher Jesse Richman, who claimed that as many as 18,000 non-citizens had registered to vote in Kansas (remember, Kobach's actual evidence showed 43 such improper registrations). Richman kept trying to introduce numbers that hadn't been included in the pretrial reports, leading to any number of objections, and he probably didn't help Kobach's case when he interrupted Judge Robinson. Repeatedly.
“Wait, wait, wait!” the judge called out as the situation heated up and more people in the courtroom began speaking simultaneously. “Especially you,” she added to Richman, instructing him not to talk except when answering questions. “You’re not here to trash the plaintiff. You’re not here to argue with me.”
Kobach has argued that requiring documentation of citizenship to be able to vote isn't onerous, since the law also allows people with missing documentation to appeal directly to the secretary of state's office. Of course, only five people have actually requested such an alternative process since the law went into effect, so that may not be a compelling argument.
And Kris Kobach, Ace Attorney? A former Kansas attorney and judge, Bart Budetti, said yesterday he thinks the whole sad crew is in over their heads and feels a little sorry for them:
“It was just mind-boggling,” Budetti said. “Those people are not trial lawyers. They may be doing their best, but they obviously don’t know what they’re doing.”
Just the folks you want as custodians of voter information, huh? And maybe as governor, although Kobach's performance in this trial may not be a feather in his cap. Lucky thing he's done such a great job of weeding out Democrats from registering.